8 Common Grammar Mistakes and Why You Should Avoid Them

Hey, Shmoopers,

Whether you are a grammar stickler or you hate grammar sticklers, it’s good to know when you need to be on point and when you can play a little fast and loose with those pesky rules. Our Grammar Guides will let you in on grammar’s biggest secrets while still helping you pass your next grammar quiz. Here’s a sneak peek.

8 Common Grammar Mistakes 

and Why You Should Avoid Them

1. Its vs. It’s, Your vs. You’re, and Their vs. There vs. They’re

You know the moment: you click send on the email, and then realize that you messed up a their/there/they’re. It happens to the best of us. Start by learning tips and tricks from yours truly, and then…implement the “undo send” function in Gmail. You can thank us later.

2. Dangling Modifiers

Dangling modifiers are just as gross and ridiculous as they sound. And they’re pretty easy to avoid, too. All you have to do is make sure that the word you’re modifying is actually in your sentence. (And, you know, in the right place.)

3. Comma Splices

The comma has absolutely no business joining two independent clauses together without a conjunction. It’s simply not strong enough. (Sorry, comma.) Find out how to fix comma splices in our Punctuation guide.

4. Compound Possessive Pronouns

This one sounds complicated, but we can explain it in terms of The Bachelor, which means…it’s not. Here’s the sitch. You know how the bachelor (or bachelorette: grammar mistakes are equal opportunity) always says stuff like “she and I’s relationship” or “her and I’s relationship” or “she and my’s relationship” or “her and my’s relationship” or omigodpleasemakeitstop? Yeah, those are wrong. What he’s looking for is “her and my relationship.” Or, you know, “our relationship,” but that would be too easy. Want more deets? Dig it.

5. Comma after But

Nope. Just no. With one tiny exception, you should never put a comma after the word but. We know it looks pretty, but…it doesn’t, actually. So you now have zero reasons to do it.

6. I vs. Me

How many times have you seen an Instagram post with the caption “LeBron James and I at the game!” Okay, maybe not that exact caption. We’re talking about the “[name] and I” construction. It’s…wrong. How can you tell? Well, would you ever caption it with “I at the game”? We sure hope not. So don’t add LeBron into the mix. What did he ever do to you anyway? Here’s more.

7. Double Prepositions

The who vs. whom debate will never end. That’s for sure. But one thing we can all agree on is that you should never double up on prepositions when using whom. “To whom would you like to speak?” Perf. “Whom would you like to speak to?” Also fine (according to common usage, at least). But “To whom would you like to speak to?” No thank you.

8. Homophones

Yeah, spelling is part of grammar. And yeah, it’s hard. The worst? When words are pronounced the same (or…close) but spelled differently. Accept and except, we’re looking at you. You and 21 other common homophones. (And those are just the ones we could do before we ran out of breath.)

Still itching for more? Try our Common Grammar Mistakes video playlist.


Quote of the Week

Mr. Allen, this may come as a shock to you, but there are some men who don’t end every sentence with a proposition.

~ Pillow Talk


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